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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

“This is what our border with Russia looks like”? NO. It looks different

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According to many Internet users, the Polish-Russian border on the Vistula Spit is marked by a low mesh fence. Footage and photos published on social media show a rather flimsy fence that runs across the beach. However, the state border runs in a different place and is protected in a different way. We explain.

At the end of March, one of the Internet users published a short video on TikTok 33 seconds video (with a rendition of a folk song), which shows a low, broken net running across a sandy beach. There is also a large information board aimed at tourists and a STOP sign (largely covered with stickers). The inscription on the recording reads: “This is what the Polish border with Russia looks like by the sea.” According to many Internet users, this easy-to-breach fence is the Polish-Russian border on the Vistula Spit. The video has almost three million views.

At the beginning of June, this recording resurfaced online. This time on X platform and it is also popular here. It has over 242 thousand. views. At the end of May, it was also published online photo this part of the beach with a mocking comment: “They want to pump billions to improve the border with Belarus. Meanwhile, this is what our border with Russia looks like. What a circus.” This is a reference to the announcement of Donald Tusk's government about the creation of the Eastern Shield, i.e. a comprehensive defense infrastructure on NATO's eastern flank to counteract threats from Belarus and Russia. June 10, 2024 the government adopted a special resolution on this matter. Let us recall that earlier, during the government of the United Right, a high fence with an electronic barrier was erected on the border with Belarus.

However, many Internet users point out that the issue is coming back again and that the mesh fence is not the Polish-Russian border. We explain.

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The border is much further

Poland's land border with Russia is 210 kilometers long, of which less than one kilometer – exactly 850 meters – is the section on the Vistula Spit. Next comes the Königsberg Oblast (formerly Kaliningrad Oblast). The grid visible in materials published by Internet users is a very famous point on the map of Poland. For many tourists, the awareness of being “at the end of Poland” (and at the same time of the European Union) is exciting. This is a fragment of the beach on the Vistula Spit located in the old fishing town of Piaski (Stara Karczma); currently within the administrative borders of Krynica Morska. Right next to the mesh fence is entrance no. 1 to the beach in Piaski.

Is the net – as many Internet users claim – the border between Poland and Russia? According to Google Maps – NO. The border is less than 400 meters further east. This is confirmed in an interview with us by Junior Warrant Officer Katarzyna Przybysz, acting spokesman for the Commander of the Maritime Unit of the Border Guard. He points out that the Border Guard is regularly asked about this matter. – This network is not on the border and has nothing to do with it. The border is much further, several hundred meters away – he explains in an interview with Konkret24. Przybysz emphasizes that officers are on duty in this place 24 hours a day and that there are many electronic devices at the border, including those monitoring traffic.

These words are confirmed by the comments of Internet users who, on social media, report the rapid reaction of border guards as soon as they crossed the line marked by the net. “Behind this dune, I went under the barrier to take a photo in Russia. 3 min [później] there was the Border Guard”; “I had exactly the same situation, my husband and I went through it to take a photo and immediately they were there, they have photo traps in the trees and that's why they are there so quickly, but we only got a lesson”; “I was there too, the Polish border guard is hanging around there non stop” – they commented on the Internet (original spelling).

Whose fence? It is unknown

The spokeswoman for Junior Warrant Officer of the Border Guard Przybysz also informs us that the net was not placed on the beach by the Border Guard and is not its property. He sends us to the authorities of Krynica Morska. However, the local mayor, Sylwia Szczurek, redirects us to the Maritime Office in Gdynia. And Magdalena Kierzkowska, his spokeswoman, asks that questions on this matter be sent to… the Maritime Unit of the Border Guard.

On the white board, located right next to the fence, there is the coat of arms of Krynica Morska and the flag of the European Union. It may contain the following message: “Dear tourist, you are at the border of the town of Krynice Morska, which is also the external border of the EUROPEAN UNION with the RUSSIAN FEDERATION. We would like to inform you that crossing the state border in this place is prohibited and subject to penalty” (original spelling). The legal basis is provided, and at the bottom there is a signature: “Krynica Morska City Hall”.

What does the actual border with Russia look like on the Spit? Poles, plaques…

There are plenty of photos and videos published by Internet users online, showing a chain-link fence in Piaski. However, you are not allowed to approach the actual border with Russia without special permission. Therefore, there is not much material available that would show what the Polish-Russian border on the Vistula Spit really looks like. Katarzyna Przybysz describes to us that there is no fence on the beach and dunes. There is a strip of border road, appropriate poles and boards.

Where is the Polish-Russian border on the Vistula Spit – this is not a frequently photographed grid in the town of Piaski.Google

We found it on YouTube video published in February 2024 by an anonymous Internet user who went with a Border Guard patrol to the very border with Russia. The author justifies the creation of the video by saying that “there is a certain misunderstanding of how everything is organized there, where the border is.” Then, showing the discussed net on the beach and dunes in Piaski, he says to the audience: “Listen, this is not Russia yet. Behind this fence there is still Polish territory.” His video shows that there is a fence and barriers on the extension of the net from the beach, in the forest and on the dunes. When it reaches the actual border, you can see that there is no fence on the beach and dunes. There are signs with the information: “Border road strip” and “State border. Crossing prohibited”, as well as a border monolith with a rear sight through which the border line runs, a number and a Russian eagle. There is also a steel tower – the joint of the border leading edge, which, together with the second one located further, also mark the border line.

We found the same objects in photos published in August 2021 on the Facebook group I love the Vistula Spit. You can also see border posts and an old guard box.

In November 2022, when the construction of a temporary razor wire barrier on the Polish border with the Russian Federation near the Kaliningrad Oblast began, the then press spokesman for the commandant of the Maritime Border Guard Unit, 2nd Lt. Cmdr. Border Guard Andrzej Juźwiak assured that the section of the border on the Vistula Spit is sufficiently protected. Let us remind you that in this place, on the Russian side, the Spit has no connection to the mainland. Juźwiak informed that Border Guard officers have modern equipment at their disposal to perform their daily tasks, including support by various types of technical devices securing the state border. “Thanks to this, the entire area is properly supervised, and the protection and security system for this section of the state border is sufficient at the moment. If necessary, we will respond appropriately to the situation,” he informed then.

Main photo source: WOJCIECH STROZYK/East News

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